- The Washington Times - Friday, December 21, 2001

A surge in demand for family photos since September 11 is generating plenty of work for studio portrait photographer Julia Gradian.
"We're seeing a lot of families, and we're seeing more extended families. I think the biggest group I photographed was 15 or 16 people," says Miss Gradian, 22, who works at one of the more than 1,000 Sears Portrait Studios across the nation.
On one of their busiest days since the September 11 attacks, Miss Gradian and her Sears colleagues in Alexandria's Landmark Mall photographed 70 persons or groups of people.
It is an enormous increase in business. People shuttle in and out of Sears, where photographers snap photos in three studios.
One of the newest props in the studios at the Landmark Mall portrait studio and at malls nationwide is a patriotic backdrop with an image of an American flag emblazoned on it.
CPI Corp., the St. Louis company that owns and operates the Sears Portrait Studios, introduced the large photo of the flag immediately after the terrorist attacks, says Roe DiGianni, a district manager at CPI who oversees 17 studios in Virginia.
People are eager to pose before the Stars and Stripes. About one of every five customers asked to have the patriotic background in their photos just after CPI began using it in September, Mrs. DiGianni says, and photographers haven't seen interest in the flag backdrop decline significantly.
"I'd never heard of anyone asking for it before [Sep[JUMP]tember]. I think people are just feeling more patriotic now, and I'm sure it's because it's post-September 11," Miss Gradian says.
Not only are people and families asking to be photographed in front of the flag, they are dressing in red, white and blue more than ever.
"A lot of people are dressing up. We're seeing flags on shirt and ties," Miss Gradian says.
But families aren't alone in their desire to have their smiling faces photographed.
Lt. Col. Deborah Ivory is one of a growing number of military personnel who feel it is suddenly very important to stop talking about about having a photo taken and finally doing it.
But instead of posing with her husband, Col. Ivory stands alone in front of Miss Gradian in the studio.
Sgt. Maj. Lacey Ivory, her 43-year-old husband, died when terrorists guided American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon.
"We kept saying we were going to get a picture taken together. I feel awful that we didn't," Col. Ivory says while Miss Gradian prepares the studio. "I miss him like crazy."
Like so many others before her, Col. Ivory requests the American flag backdrop.
"I want to make sure we get the stars in there," she says.
Col. Ivory looks impeccable in her Army uniform, and all Miss Gradian has to do is tell her willing subject how to pose.
"I feel like a model," Col. Ivory says.
That is due largely to Miss Gradian's gentle touch with her subjects.
"This isn't for everybody, that's for sure. I think you have to like people, especially kids because it's mostly kids getting their pictures taken," she says.
Miss Gradian has little trouble getting 13-month-old Emanuel Howard to smile for the camera.
She goes through elaborate maneuvers to get the child's attention, including tickling him, waving a stuffed animal and making sounds with her mouth. Mostly, Emanuel looks at Miss Gradian with an expression bordering on surprise.
But something causes him to burst into a grin and at just that moment she pushes a button at the end of a long cord that is connected to her camera and Emanuel is captured with a big smile.
A computer monitor hooked up to the camera lets customers view the images instantly so they can place orders for photos.
"Some kids are pretty easy. You just have to talk to them and they smile," says Miss Gradian.

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